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Prison for fatal sofa lift

12. July 2017 | Comments (1)

Martin Gutaj, 44, the managing director of UK contractor Martinisation (London) has been jailed for 14 months, while the company – now in liquidation – has been fined £1.2 million, following a fatal incident in Cadogan Square, London in 2014.

The incident involved the lifting of a large sofa weighing around 130kg through the first floor windows as the company completed a £900,000 refurbishment contract. Specialist fine art delivery and logistic company JayHawk had quoted £848 to hire a furniture hoist or crane to place the sofa, which was too large for the stairs. Gutaj refused to pay the extra cost, responding: "Unfortunately, we do not have time for all that. Please deliver the sofa and we will get it up to the flat.”

A team of eight men were assembled on site that morning and began hoisting the sofa up to the balcony with ropes. As it reached the balcony at a height of around five metres, the 130 year old cast iron balustrade gave way, causing two of the men - Tomasz Procko, 22 and Karol Symanski, 29 - to fall to the ground where they eventually died from their injuries. A third man was saved after he was grabbed by a colleague.

The scene in Cadogan Square on the day of the incident
The scene in Cadogan Square on the day of the incident

Gutaj and his company were found guilty of two counts of corporate manslaughter and "shocking failures" that resulted in the death of the two employees in an "entirely foreseeable and preventable accident." In addition to the prison sentence and the company fine, Gutaj has been disqualified from being a company director for four years.

Cadogan square balcony
The cast iron balustrade gave way

Judge Gerald Gordon during sentencing said: “company documents were ‘for show’ and a health and safety culture was entirely lacking, despite warnings. On the day of the accident, there was a shocking failure to consider the health and safety of employees and others. The motives for ignoring the warnings must have been in one way or another to benefit your business. The word has got to get out that health and safety on building sites is not a boring technicality. It is vital to the safety of employees and others in what is inherently a dangerous environment. Those who are wilfully blind to the risks despite warnings - as you were - have got to expect to go immediately to prison."

Martin Gutaj
Martin Gutaj

Martinisation had received previous warnings and HSE prohibition notices, including a lack of work at height precautions and the erection of a scaffold by untrained staff.


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13. July 2017 21:51

He should have got 14 years.


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